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Living in Simcoe County, we have access to many wonderful parks, forests and wetlands. Many of which are perfect for hiking, biking, cross country skiing and more.
If you’re looking for new adventures close to home and aren’t sure where to start, here’s a list of 11 beautiful trails in Simcoe County.
1. Simcoe County Forests
The Simcoe County Forests consist of 33,000 acres spread across more than 150 forests. Better yet, these forests have more than 720 kms of trails. Originally planted as part of a reforestation project, they’re the largest and one of the most productive municipal forests.
Some of the most popular trails in the Simcoe County Forests are:
- Midhurst Trail – A 10 km loop in Springwater, ON with lots of side trails and alternative routes.
- Willow Creek Loop Trail – Another 3.1 km loop in Springwater, ON. The trail is a wide path that follows Willow Creek then cuts through a forest on the way back. On the trail, you will pass by an operating train bridge you can view from the valley below.
2. Cookstown Trans Canada Trail
The Trans Canada Trail is the country’s national trail, running coast to coast. Running along the abandoned CN Rail Line, it’s the longest network of multi-use recreational trails. It is also low impact making it a great option for all skill levels.
FUN FACT: 4 out of 5 Canadians live within 30 minutes of the trail.
There are a few different places to connect to the Trans Canada Trail in Simcoe County. One popular section is a 9 km stretch that starts near Cookstown and runs into Thornton.
The trail has a variety of trestle bridges and provides a mix of sun and shade. There’s also lots to take as you pass by dense forests, pastures, small towns and Cookstown Creek.
3. Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area
The Nottawasaga Bluffs is a 400 acre conservation area in Collingwood. Running along the Niagara Escarpment, you’ll see lots of:
- Hardwood and coniferous forests
- Towering limestone bluffs
- Lush undergrowth
- Open meadows
There are also several vistas where you can enjoy breathtaking views.
The Bluffs offer several different routes, including a portion of the Bruce trail. For some of the most interesting experiences and views, be sure to take the Keyhole Trail. This trail offers an other-worldly experience with snow in June, bright green moss and walls of rock that tower above you.
4. Devil’s Glen Provincial Park
If you’re looking for a unique experience, be sure to stop by Devil’s Glen Provincial Park. The park rests on the edge of Manitoulin Bedrock Ledge where a glacier meltwater channel flowed along the Niagara Escarpment. Devil’s Glen also has one of the highest peaks along the Escarpment at 1,509 feet above sea level.
Like other provincial parks, there are many routes to choose from. If you only choose one, the Devil’s Glen Loop is a favourite among hikers. It’s a 10.6 km loop with a lookout at the beginning of the trail with views of the gorge below.
As you explore the park, you’ll see beautiful waterfalls, lush forests, wetlands and rock outcroppings. At lunch, you can even picnic by the Mad River.
5. Ganaraska Hiking Trail
The Ganaraska is a 500 km network of trails that run from Collingwood in Simcoe County to Port Hope with lots of side trails to nearby towns. It was created so nature lovers could have access to unspoiled countryside trails.
There are a few different places to hop on this trail in Simcoe County, including Midland, Orillia, Tiny, Wasaga and more.
The Barrie section starts at Sugarbush in Horseshoe. As you walk the Barrie section, you’ll pass through the Copeland Forest and County Forests as you make your way to Midhurst. Your adventure will take you by forests, fields, wetlands, creeks and even a beaver dam. The path also passes through:
- Simcoe County Museum
- Springwater Provincial Park
- Minesing Wetlands
- Fort Willow
Doing the whole Barrie section in one shot would take several hours of non-stop hiking. The good news is that you can enjoy smaller segments. That’s because there are access points at different places all along the way.
6. Copeland Forests
If the full Barrie section of the Ganaraska is more than you’re looking for, we recommend focusing on Copeland Forest. This will give you a taste of the Ganaraska while you take in one of the most beautiful old growth forests in Southern Ontario.
This 4,400 acre forest is ideal for beginners or someone looking to limber up. On your hike through the Copeland Forest, you can take in:
- Picturesque wetlands
- Towering trees
- Lush undergrowth
- Beautiful wildflowers
7. Scout Valley Loop Trail
Scout Valley is a city owned park on the outskirts of Orillia. The 230 acre nature park used to be a Scout Camp, which is how it got its name. Today, it’s a Provincially significant wetland.
Scout Valley has 3 different loops, each 2 km long. You can also find Regan House, Orillia’s oldest pioneer home, at Scout Valley. Regan House is a historic home built of squared pine timbers. Originally built on Westmount Dr where the Shopper’s is now located, it was relocated to Scout Valley next to the heritage stone wall.
While hiking Scout Valley, you can enjoy hilly trails with views of white pines and mature deciduous trees. You can also take in the retreating Ice Age Lake Algonquin shoreline and enjoy lookouts with views of Lake Simcoe and Couchiching.
8. Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area
With more than 250 species of birds, this massive cattail and meadow marsh in Tiny Township is a birders paradise. It’s also Ontario’s first provincially owned and managed wetland and one of nearly 1200 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas. These areas are discrete sites that support:
- Threatened birds
- Large groups of birds
- Birds restricted by range or by habitat
The Wildlife Area covers more than 1,400 acres and has 15 km of trails. These trails feature boardwalks, upland forests, dykes, two lookouts, a marsh viewing mound and a wildlife blind. There’s also an interpretive center with displays and a theater that is open in the Spring & Summer.
9. Grant’s Woods Nature Reserve
If you enjoy watching birds and wildlife, Tiny Marsh isn’t the only place to visit. Just outside of Orillia is a 52 acre nature reserve. This property acts as a nesting area for many different species, including:
- Scarlet Tanagers
- Black-throated Green Warblers
- Broad-winged Hawks
- Pileated Woodpeckers
- Indigo Buntings
- Mourning Warblers
While walking these shaded Simcoe County trails you can also enjoy mature upland forests with a variety of native trees, plants and cool streams. There are also boardwalks, foot bridges and interpretive signs/stations throughout the property.
10. Wye Marsh
As you come into Midland on Hwy 12, you will discover Wye Marsh. Though you have to pay to enter, the well-maintained trails, boardwalks and wildlife areas are worth the fee.
The marsh is a 3,000 acre National Wildlife Area, Provincially Significant Wetland and Important Bird Area with over 25 km of trails. The terrain is made up of dirt, gravel and grass paths which pass through woods, wetlands and a cattail marsh. There’s also a large boardwalk passing over the marsh where you can watch for turtles, frogs and beavers. But this isn’t all there is to see …
Wye Marsh also has a bee keeping area with a screened in viewing room and a Waterfowl Monitoring Station where you can watch the Trumpeter Swans. There’s also an area where you can view birds of prey, turtles, and snakes in captivity. Each of these animals are cared for by the Wye Marsh, as they need specialized care.
Once you have finished your hike, you can stop by the Interpretive Center. Here you can enjoy displays showcasing the natural & cultural history of the Wye Marsh.
11. George Langman Sanctuary
Also located near Orillia is the George Langman Sanctuary. This 61 acre property is open year round and run by the Orillia Fish & Game Conservation Club (OFGCC).
In the 1970s, OFGCC dredged the area to enhance waterfowl reproduction and create small islands for water birds to nest safely. Over the years, the Sanctuary has become home to Canada geese, mute and trumpeter swans, mallard ducks, wood ducks and more.
The Sanctuary also has 6 km of well maintained trails that follow the shoreline of the wetlands and pass through dense forests. On your hike you’re likely to come across a variety of wildlife. This includes deer, rabbits, foxes, rabbits and chipmunks, as well as wetland creatures like turtles, frogs and snakes.
At the entrance to the trails, there’s a bird building with rare upland game birds, as well as a pen on the water area for their breeding pairs of swans.
Visitors are allowed to bring food for the birds and animals. The Swans can be fed corn and greens, such as lettuce. The rabbits that often hop around near the front of the Sanctuary also enjoy greens and the occasional apple.
Simcoe County is full of beautiful trails with unique reasons to visit. While this list includes just a handful of the hiking trails in the area, it’s a great place to start if you want to begin exploring closer to home.